Melanie Pfister Engelberg Riesling Grand Cru 2017
Granite is always more explosive, very delicate, while limestone needs time to show its great potential and length. The Pfisters farm two acres of Riesling in this superb northern site and make a dry toothsomely mineral wine of great length.
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As early as 1780, Nicolas Pfister lived as a "bourgeois wine-grower" using the farm buildings that are still in place today. The estate and how-know were subsequently handed down from father to son, in the traditional manner.
There was a turning point in 1972, when Alfred Pfister handed over the business to his son André. With the support of his wife Marie-Anne, the latter would implement a new approach, resolutely forward-thinking and designed to benefit future generations. Having inherited the expertise of the six previous generations of wine-growers, he soon decided to devote himself to ecologically responsible wine-growing while modernising facilities and equipment. The work carried out on the vines and in the cellar pursued the single objective of obtaining the highest quality fruit and wines, bearing the hallmark of their terroir.
The latest chapter in the story has seen the arrival on the estate of Mélanie, the eighth generation of Pfisters, and the first woman in the line of succession. Trained in Bordeaux and then Dijon as an engineer and oenologist, she intends to apply her knowledge and diverse practical experiences to the ongoing quest for perfection that epitomizes the estate.
With its fairytale aesthetic, Germanic influence and strong emphasis on white wines, Alsace is one of France’s most unique viticultural regions. This hotly contested stretch of land running north to south on France’s northeastern border has spent much of its existence as German territory. Nestled in the rain shadow of the Vosges mountains, it is one of the driest regions of France but enjoys a long and cool growing season. Autumn humidity facilitates the development of “noble rot” for the production of late-picked sweet wines, Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles.
The best wines of Alsace can be described as aromatic and honeyed, even when completely dry. The region’s “noble” varieties, the only ones permitted within Alsace’s 51 Grands Crus vineyards, are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, and Pinot Gris.
Riesling is Alsace’s main specialty. In its youth, Alsace Riesling is dry, fresh and floral, but develops complex mineral and flint character with age. Gewurztraminer is known for its signature spice and lychee aromatics, and is often utilized for late harvest wines. Pinot Gris is prized for its combination of crisp acidity and savory spice as well as ripe stone fruit flavors. Muscat, vinified dry, tastes of ripe green grapes and fresh rose petal.
Other varieties grown here include Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Chasselas, Sylvaner and Pinot Noir—the only red grape permitted in Alsace and mainly used for sparkling rosé known as Crémant d’Alsace. Most Alsace wines are single-varietal bottlings and unlike other French regions, are also labeled with the variety name.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended white wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used in white wine blends, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied white wine blend, like Chardonnay, would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.